On July 20, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (“OCR”) announced that they had sent a warning letter to about 130 hospital systems and telehealth providers, alerting them about the risks and concerns of using online tracking technologies, such as the Meta/Facebook pixel and Google Analytics, which can track users’ online activities.

In the letter, the FTC and OCR reiterated the risks posed by the unauthorized disclosure of an individuals’ personal health information—such as health conditions, diagnoses, and medications, among other items—to third parties. These concerns, particularly as they related to the use of online tracking technologies by HIPAA Covered Entities and Business Associates, were highlighted in OCR’s Bulletin issued last year and about which we previously wrote.

The FTC also reminded companies not covered by HIPAA that they still have a responsibility to protect against the unauthorized disclosure of personal health information, highlighting its recent enforcement actions against BetterHelp and GoodRx, about which we also previously wrote.  Such enforcement actions related to those companies’ sharing of health information with third parties that use online tracking technologies integrated into the companies’ websites and apps without users’ awareness. 

Additional information about the risks relating to online tracking technologies can be found on the FTC’s Blog.  We will continue to monitor for additional enforcement actions in this area.

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Photo of Matthew J. Westbrook Matthew J. Westbrook

Matt Westbrook is an associate in the Corporate Department and a member of the Health Care Group. His practice focuses on providing regulatory compliance advice for the Firm’s health care clients, including service providers, health plans, operators, investors, and lenders, among others. Matt

Matt Westbrook is an associate in the Corporate Department and a member of the Health Care Group. His practice focuses on providing regulatory compliance advice for the Firm’s health care clients, including service providers, health plans, operators, investors, and lenders, among others. Matt specifically provides advice on fraud and abuse matters arising under the Federal False Claims Act (FCA), Civil Monetary Penalties Law, Federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), and Physician Self-Referral Law (Stark Law), as well as on the regulations promulgated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Health and Human Services, including the Office of Inspector General (OIG), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Before joining the Firm, Matt served as senior counsel in OIG’s Administrative and Civil Remedies Branch. At OIG, Matt was responsible for determining whether to impose administrative sanctions, including civil money penalties and Federal health care program exclusions, against health care providers and suppliers, and whether to impose civil money penalties on hospitals and physicians in connection with matters referred to CMS under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). During his tenure, Matt also litigated exclusion appeals before administrative law judges and appellate panels of the Departmental Appeals Board; advised United States Attorney’s Offices on exclusions appealed to Federal district courts; resolved voluntary self-disclosures submitted by providers and grant and contract recipients; and participated in the negotiations and settlements of FCA matters by the Department of Justice involving the AKS, Stark Law, CMS reimbursement issues, and DEA and FDA compliance issues. In connection with certain FCA resolutions, Matt also negotiated and monitored corporate integrity agreements.

On the Florida junior circuit and in college, Matt was a competitive tennis player. Matt played on the varsity team and was captain his senior year at Rhodes College, earning ITA Division III and SCAC All-Academic Honor Roll awards his sophomore, junior, and senior years. Matt is an active member of the American Health Law Association (AHLA) and currently serves as a Vice Chair of AHLA’s Fraud and Abuse Practice Group.